Excuse Me, You Have Some Twitter On Your Facebook

blog-illustrationTweets on LinkedIn. Tweets on blogs. Facebook and Twitter updates on blogs. Blogs on Facebook. It seems that many people don’t want anyone to miss a single word they ever say. Duplicate content is becoming the norm. I brought this up on Twitter recently, and quickly got a bunch of responses from people agreeing that it is a bit noisy. Some said that they hate it but do it themselves because they thought it was just what you were supposed to do. But as far as I know, no one is supposed to do anything in the social media space. If they are, then they neglected to give me that rule book.

This over-connectedness and need for everyone to read everything you ever write or say online is starting to overwhelm me. The thing is that oftentimes those with whom you are connected on Twitter may also be connected to you on Facebook and/or LinkedIn or subscribe to your blog. They’ve seen it already on one of the other platforms. For me, I see each venue as having a unique function. There is some cross-pollination going on in my various online arenas, but overall each platform has its own audience. Each platform also lends itself to unique styles of communication that don’t always translate well on a different platform. Even though I am not your cubicle type, I am finding the need to compartmentalize my social networking use.

Welcome to my compartments

Professional:
LinkedIn for me is purely business. I try not to get too personal there, using it for business networking, promoting my business and my blog with business related content, and looking for new clients and other business uses. My Blog also serves a similar purpose. I generally write about issues and ideas related to what I do – marketing, writing, design, and branding stuff. I leave personal stories out of it unless they’re part of a larger story that relates to what I do. Hopefully people will read what I write and some even hire me.

Mix n Match:
Twitter for me is easier to mix personal and professional content. The short format lends itself to allowing me to quickly share a myriad of things – pictures of my puppy, links to interesting articles on business subjects of interest, quick chats with my virtual friends, and just random observations of the strange, funny and interesting things I find or think about. I tend to be a bit more liberal with Twitter followers. Let”s face it, the majority of the 1001 people I have following me on Twitter are people I have never met and probably never will. Some are real friends, online friends and people I have worked with or might work with, but the vast majority are complete strangers.

My real friends:
Facebook, on the other hand is beginning to define itself to me as the place to connect with my friend-friends, not my “friends.” I do have a few business related connections there, but I’m thinking about dropping them and keeping it purely personal. I don’t necessarily want potential clients or colleagues reading my chatty comments or stupid insider jokes with old friends. I see this as a place for me to really relax and stay in touch with friends and family. I generally keep business out of it. My real life friends and family don’t care to know my thoughts on marketing or writing. Those people care more about the recipe for that tasty roasted red pepper dip that I make all the time.

Stop and think about the various platforms you use and how they can each be utilized in unique ways to do whatever it is that you do. Go ahead, Tweet on Twitter, write on your Facebook wall, update your status or start a discussion on LinkedIn, and cross-promote now and then, but I don’t think the world is going to stop turning if someone somewhere misses something you say.

Do you use each platform in different ways? What do you think?

Bookmark and Share

The Cashier At Walgreens Is My Consultant

helloimcheryl
The “Consultant”
I was at Walgreens the other day and I noticed that the young woman who rang up my birthday card, shampoo and toothpaste was wearing a name tag that read:
Susan, Beauty Consultant. I also noticed that Susan had chipped electric blue fingernails, multiple rings on all of her fingers, mellow yellow teeth, too many piercings that were visible and my guess is that she also had too many more that weren’t as well. I looked at her tag again and thought, “Hmm, I wonder if I should consult with her on that nagging beauty question that I have.” Then I looked at her fingernails again when she held out her hand to take my money and told me the total amount of my purchase in between the click clicking of her chewing gum, and I thought, “Nah, I’ll seek a consultation elsewhere.”

The “Designer”

I was watching a commercial the other day for a local furniture store, and the staff, instead of being referred to as sales associates, were referred to as design consultants. My guess is that the likelyhood that any of these consultants attended design school is pretty slim. What type of design would that be, designing a methodology for getting me to buy a chair from them?

The “Guest”

I went into a store to return something and noticed that instead of a customer service desk, they had a “guest services” desk. Apparently I am no longer considered a customer in the store, I am now a guest. Does that mean they’ll serve me a nice homemade dinner with a glass of wine or put me up in a fully appointed room for the night? Really, I just wanted to return a t-shirt.

The Writer

Consultants, Designers, Guests. I’m getting confused, but have come to realize that there are designers and “designers,” there are consultants and “consultants,” and there are guests and “guests.” Just in case you all are wondering, I’m a writer not a “writer.”

Bookmark and Share

Happy Holidays

xmas treeJust wanted to post a message to all those who have been reading, commenting and connecting with me over the past months since I started this blog. I really do appreciate you stopping by, reading, re-tweeting, subscribing and joining in on the conversation. Watching my readership grow, conversing with you, and connecting has meant a lot to me. I hope that you have found reading what I have to say helpful, interesting or at least entertaining in some way.

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, may it be merry. And for all of you, I wish you peace, good health and much happiness in the coming year.

Happy holidays, my friends.

Cheers,

Cheryl

Bookmark and Share

What The Grinch Can Teach About Brand Integrity

Every year about this time since 2000, the Jim Carrey/Ron Howard interpretation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas rears it’s ugly head. It’s dark, it’s loud and there are words and images in it that Dr. Seuss would never have used. I’ve heard it referred to as an interpretation geared for today’s kids, and unfortunately, it is probably true that some very young children will associate this 2000 Hollywood version of the story as THE version of the story. I am a brand purist and this movie is a prime example of how to ruin a perfect brand.

When Theodor Gisel (aka Dr. Seuss) was alive, he fought off movie companies knocking at his door to buy the rights to a variety of his classic books. He always said no, with the exception of when his respected friend Chuck Jones convinced him to let him take a stab at producing and animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But Gisel knew and respected Chuck Jones and worked closely with him on the production to assure the integrity of the Dr. Seuss brand, message and style remained intact, and Jones was committed to making sure it was done right. The end result is a testimony to their commitment to retaining the true essence of the story, the characters and the feel of the book. This original 1966 Boris Karloff/Chuck Jones version is perfect, timeless and tells the story completely in the words that were written by and in the illustrative style of Dr. Seuss. It indeed has become a timeless classic.

But after Gisel died, his widow started signing away the movie rights to her dead husband’s life work, and in turn, bringing in millions from the deals. With one swipe of her jewel encrusted pen, his widow dismissed the value and meaning of all that her husband had worked to protect for his entire working life. Money won over substance, ironically contradicting the very meaning that the story of the Grinch conveyed.

Some things shouldn’t be messed with. Some things can’t be improved, especially those that offer originality and innovation. Making something a commercial blockbuster will most likely mean those unique elements that made it special in the first place are scraped away and replaced with bells, whistles, fireballs, predictability, maybe some cleavage, and lots and lots of toys and licensed products that will be on the shelf for way too long.

I am perhaps idealistic when it comes to brands. I am always a believer in the longevity of building a pure brand, one that may take a bit longer to create, rather than the quick rise of commercialized garbage to make a fast buck. Just because something may make lots of money fast, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do for the long term value of a brand.

Bookmark and Share

Great Expectations: Brand Building and ROI

coin returnBrand building and the return on the investment it takes to build a brand are, to a great degree, difficult things to measure. They can be a bit elusive and hard to define. The measurement involves participation in and understanding of a process that takes place over time, utilizing and considering numerous variables and methods to create a sense of familiarity, awareness and trust in a product or brand name. *Note the phrase “over time.”

There are some seemingly lucky dogs that hit on an overnight success, but those instances are rare, and most often only have the appearance of overnight success. The behind the scenes relentless messaging, marketing, PR, promotion and brand building work that takes place is usually not visible to the naked eye. And it really shouldn’t be.

Patience is key here. Focusing too heavily on tangible and quick ROI, dollar for dollar is futile. Investing in a promotional campaign that sends traffic to your site, starts people talking on the internet and elsewhere about your brand, increasing your Google ranking, getting your brand more attention from other media and other venues, though it may not seem like a strong dollar for dollar return, one has to consider what awareness is worth. When does the dollar return come from a promotional investment? Maybe not for months or even longer. What will greater brand awareness lead to? Customer trust and loyalty, new business, and more sales, but it most likely will not be right away. To expect to pay a dollar for promotional work and the next day get two dollars back is unrealistic, but that oftentimes is the expectation when a client asks about ROI.

Data is useful, no doubt about that, but data can be deceiving. If a promotional campaign does not immediately and directly produce sales, but does drive traffic and produce positive awareness, is that considered to be a poor return on investment? I would argue that ROI doesn’t necessarily have to translate directly to dollars out vs. dollars back in. The return may not come in ways that can easily be counted. The return can come in ways that are impossible to measure. It can come from a positive consumer feeling about and recognition of a brand, trust in a product, understanding of and connection to what the brand stands for and what a company is all about. All of that has to come before many consumers will be willing to spend one penny to buy. How do you measure and value the various elements of ROI?

Bookmark and Share

Branding Rule #1: Avoid Conjuring Up Images Of #2

portable toiletI came across a company name the other day and when I saw it, I truly had to do a double take. My point is not to embarrass anyone here, so I won’t reveal the actual name, but let’s suffice it to say that it conjured up images of baking diapers in an oven, quite literally. O – k-aay, I thought to myself. I’m picturing a lovely woman in a nice white chef’s hat and coat with oven mitts and a nasty tray of …oh, I can’t continue. With this image in my mind, I felt compelled to go to the site and see for myself what this product could possibly be.

As it turns out, this business offers is an array of newborn baby items like blankets, and stuffed animals, diapers (clean) and other items arranged and assembled to resemble a three-tiered cake. These so called “diaper cakes” are sold as gifts to give in honor of a new arrival in the family. That’s fine, and although I could see how they actually might be a nice idea for someone who has just had a baby, the name was so not nice. The name did however, do the trick in driving me to go to the site, but I doubt that it was for the reason that the owner had intended.

Your Name is the Cornerstone for all Marketing Efforts

Whether you are naming a product, a business or a blog, creating an effective brand name is the most important place to start in building a marketing strategy. Your name needs to say who you are, what you do, and capture the essence of your business in one simple word or two. It needs to evoke not only an understanding of what your business is, but it should create the feeling that you want to convey. Always be careful not to use something that might have a hidden or not-so-hidden meaning to a different segment of the population, otherwise it might draw in the wrong crowd for the wrong reasons.

Make Your Name Unique In The Searchable Marketplace

In the modern world of marketing, a brand name also needs to be unique enough so that it is searchable without thousands of other results coming up instead of your business. If your name is Susan and you sell cookies, logic might tell you your business name should be Susan’s Cookies, but in the web world, a name like that would be impossible to search.

Make Sure There’s A Primary Domain Available

Ideally you would want your domain to be: www.yourbrand.com. If that is not available, .net is the second choice. You should avoid names like yourbrandonline.com or yourbrandbabygifts.com. No one will remember that, even if the “root” word of your brand name is catchy. Keep it short and sweet.

Protect Your Name With A Trademark

Your brand name also should be able to be trademarked. It’s pretty quick and easy to do an initial trademark search online. If someone else has already trademarked it, then think of an alternative. If it’s in another industry completely, then you could still potentially trademark it, but the best names are ones that have little chance of being confused with another business or contested. Thinking outside of literal terms or making up a word can often lead to a clever and compelling name. Making connections to your brand story or making up words that play with the definition of what your business is can lead to finding memorable names that most often can easily be trademarked.

Naming For The Future

Think about not only what your business is now, but also the larger picture of what it could be in the future. Try not to be too specific to a particular product, when you might be expanding into other arenas that may pose a future branding problem. Kentucky Fried Chicken was faced with the dilemma that fried chicken is not as popular now as it was back in 1952 when the company was founded. People are now interested in more options, like grilled or roasted chicken and other menu items instead. This is why they needed to rebrand themselves as KFC, taking the focus off of “fried.” Sometimes rebranding can work, but most often it fails miserably, especially for established brands. Best to try to anticipate possible changes to your business model at the beginning, rather than facing a rebranding crisis later.

Don’t Fall For Trendiness

A name has to have some longevity and timelessness. Trendy names might seem like a good idea for today, but they won’t make any sense for tomorrow because they will be out of step and dated pretty quickly. It’s like a tattoo – it might look hip when you’re 20, but when your 70 year old body is sagging in unanticipated places, that skull and cross bones imprinted in your skin might not have the same appeal.

Know Who You Are

Coming up with a fresh and effective brand name is not an easy task. It takes creativity, understanding of the marketplace, some savvy use of language, an understanding of your brand as a whole, and even some intuition. It’s like naming a baby. Try to name your business to last a lifetime. (But if you are having trouble, you can always hire me to help ; )

Bookmark and Share

Are You Walking or Crossing the Personal Line on Your Blog?

lineinthesandThere are a lot of people talking online these days about the importance of injecting personal information into your blog. Although I completely agree that you have to show who you are as a person to your readership in order make a connection and create loyal readers, I think the level of personal exposure completely depends on the type of blog you have and where you draw your line personally.

If it’s a business related blog and it’s connected to a business of providing professional services or products, then I think there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Your business blog should offer your personality through occasional anecdotes and snippets of personal experiences as they are relevant to your viewpoint. On the other hand, if it’s a blog about a personal journey as a parent, cancer survivor, traveler or any other “journal” type blog, then revealing more intimate information would be appropriate and relevant.

In both cases it’s important to establish boundaries that are right for you. It’s also important to remember that anyone with a computer has the potential to read what you write, which on one level is an exciting thought and on another is kind of a creepy thought. I think some people tend to reveal a bit too much information, almost forgetting that, although they may have a core group of readers that may “know” them, they are also revealing themselves to the entire blogosphere, including the good, the bad, and the creepy. We all know this to be true, but sometimes tend to forget while we are interacting with our circle of blogging friends. You wouldn’t hang your underwear out to dry on the sidewalk in front of your house or set up a speaker system so everyone in the neighborhood can hear the personal discussions you have inside your own home. The same should be true of your blog.

On the other side, a blog is not a white paper. Factual information is a good thing on a business related blog, but the person behind the blog needs to be revealed at least to some extent. Readers want to know that there is a real person behind a words, not just a machine or committee producing a factual, well researched report or crafted corporate speak. I think it’s important to know the difference between walking the line and crossing the line and being able find that magic spot that works for you.

On this blog, I do reveal things about my life to my readers, but only when it’s relevant to what I am writing about. I think most of my regular readers know about my right brain tendencies and my creative entrepreneurial approach to looking at things. They know that I am married to a designer and know we have an 11-year-old son. They know that I go to the flea market on Sundays looking for cool old stuff. They know that I used to watch the Jetsons when I was a kid and that I’m a huge fan of Dr. Seuss. But more importantly, I think they get to know me through my perspective on the various topics I write about. Your personal qualities should show through when you write, even some of your more imperfect human ones. Being a human is a good thing.

Bookmark and Share

Butter Your Bread With Innovation

breadnbutterThere often comes a time during the life of a company when the need for a new product smacks them in the face.  Maybe their current product line has reached the natural end of its life cycle and it’s time for an infusion of something new. Or maybe they are seeking to expand into a new market. This is when a fork in the road appears, and what path is taken can determine whether a company succeeds or fails.

Some brands choose the path of building their product line by shopping around and purchasing products already on the market for inspiration or in many cases, to directly knock off. Some brands, for fear of scaring existing customers away or because of insecurity, rely too heavily on focus groups, consumer input and data to determine product direction. Although keeping a finger on the pulse of the competition and consumers is important, it shouldn’t necessarily be used to dictate the direction of a new product. But there are other, perhaps braver brands that choose to take the path of innovation. These are the brands that most often end up being the leaders and the trend setters.

Originality and innovation are what makes a brand shine. True innovators are creatives who are always looking, not necessarily just at what the competition is doing, or listening only to what their existing customers are saying, but they are looking and listening to what the world in general is doing and saying across many industries and platforms. They are the ones who often do things in spite of what the competition is doing, rather than because of what the competition is doing. And if the formula is right, that innovation is what can turn into a company’s bread and butter.

A lack of innovation most often happens when companies get too big and cumbersome or overly secure and complacent or are too new and insecure. A lack of innovation happens when companies depend too much on data and focus groups or what the competition is doing rather than on what a truly talented creative team can invent. It also comes when the desire for what may seem like guaranteed money supersedes the desire for great product. But ironically, if you have great a product, the money will come and that great new product could turn into the new bread and butter for the company. Innovation doesn’t come from looking at what’s flying off the shelves today, it comes from an ability to imagine what will fly off the shelves tomorrow. Innovation doesn’t generally come from consumers. Consumers know what they have seen, what they have used, what they have bought before. They generally don’t imagine what doesn’t exist yet. That is where designers, inventors and visionaries come in. Innovative product and strong brand identity come from creativity, inventiveness, perception and innate intuition and bravery about what direction to go in or what to create.

The most successful companies are the ones that are able to strike that magic balance between maintaining a core product that sustains them (which had its roots in innovation) and being willing to take the greater risk that comes along with breaking the mold. Valuing and putting faith in the importance and abilities of a talented creative team can be the ticket to a brand’s long term success.

Bookmark and Share

If I Give You A Free Hamburger, Will You Be My Friend?

I was watching TV last night and saw this commercial for T.G.I. Friday’s announcing their new hamburger giveaway campaign:

In the commercial, Woody, a presumed faux customer and big time fan of the restaurant chain, announces a new Facebook campaign for Friday’s that pitches the viewer to become a Woody fan on Facebook and receive a free burger. Maybe Woody is the real #1 fan of Friday’s, but I’m not buying it, and even if I did, it doesn’t matter.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the whole point of a brand participating in social media to build brand awareness through a real engagement between a real person from a company and their real consumers? To me, this campaign crosses a line between social media and advertising. Advertising is a wide-open venue where a company can create characters to act like a customer. Consumers understand that. Social media is supposed to be real. You can’t buy customer loyalty by having a fake customer giving away free hamburgers.

Creating a character to give away hamburgers and build a following on Facebook is fine I guess, but what’s the point? After the hamburgers are given away, will anyone remain friends with Woody? What is Friday’s trying to do here, create a slacker version of Ronald McDonald? Dress a clown in a pair of jeans and a beanie cap, and he’s still a clown.

Like all companies, Friday’s must have a couple of real life characters wandering the hallways at their corporate headquarters that would perhaps be more effective in leading a social media campaign. Consumers don’t want a hired character to chat with about hamburgers. They’ll take his free hamburgers, but they don’t care about him. It comes off as having something to hide, an avoidance of letting down the guard and opening the door for a real conversation, which sometimes might not be positive. Consumers want to feel like their voice can be heard and that what they say matters to the brands that they are loyal to. Involve your customers, ask for their opinions and suggestions and if giving something away helps as a thank you, then go ahead, give something away. But that can’t be the only benefit. It needs to be an ongoing engagement.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Woody will indeed get a huge following of “friends” simply to get their free burgers, but the friendship won’t last long. They’ll take the bait; they’ll eat it, and then abandon poor Woody after their bellies are full. If you offer a shallow campaign, then the response will be equally as shallow. Free stuff is great, but it’s not good enough to sustain a lasting relationship. I think Woody will be looking for a new job and new friends in no time.

Bookmark and Share

Excuse Me, Your SEO is Showing

underwearshowingNot to date myself here, but I started writing before SEO was part of modern vocabulary. I learned to write with conviction and clarity, to creatively communicate meaning, and to carefully choose words that would draw in a human reader rather than attract a robot. I learned the craft of writing as an art, not a science.

Writing has changed now with the desire to have a strong online presence and to show up first in a Google search or on Digg’s front page. Writing, at least the online sort, seems to have taken a turn for the science, often abandoning the art. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of SEO in online content, but it seems that SEO has become of primary concern in most online writing. There are an overabundance of SEO keyword dense headlines and articles floating around out there, and it always seems so obvious which are written with SEO as the primary goal.

Keyword driven headlines and content may be search friendly, but when they show up in a search, are they compelling enough for a human to respond, click and read? Or does that not matter anymore? Copyblogger recently posted an article by Dave Navarro about the importance of headlines. In the article, it was stated that, “it’s well known that many Digg users vote on articles based on article titles and descriptions without ever actually reading the stories.” I find it a little disheartening that people aren’t reading content anymore, just headlines. If this is true, does this mean that the written word, the actual meaning the words has taken a backseat to searchable terms?

The creative soul that I am can’t help but want to make a pretty sentence that a human might read and respond to. I admittedly spend way too much time crafting and editing everything that I write. I have to consciously force the science in once the art is done. In my book, art comes first and science comes second. Just the same, the scientists among us also have to try to remember to bring art into their writing. Take the SEO formula and add a few swipes of a paintbrush to it, so it is compelling and appealing to humans as well as robots. I guess the trick is for the artists and the scientists to begin to mingle and mix it up a bit. You know, like in the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial: you got peanut butter on my chocolate or you got chocolate in my peanut butter. Maybe art and science should rub up against each other a little bit more. When the two elements are put together in the right amounts, they can actually taste pretty good.

Bookmark and Share

« Older Posts